These are a few of my favorite quotes, and when I repeat them I don’t feel…so sad.
“I feel sorry for people who do not drink,” Frank Sinatra once said. “When they wake up in the morning it is as good as they are going to feel all day.” It’s a great quote, because I did feel great drinking to excess, and I’ve felt bad, and I’ve felt nothing. It feels great feeling nothing for a while, until you realize life is passing you by.
“You can only pour so much milk into a glass before some of it starts to leak out over the top,” was a line of dialogue written for the character Bud Bundy for the show Married with Children. This quote was dropped in reference to the idea that the Kelly Bundy character was learning new things. She was trying to impress her dad, and her brother, with her new found intellectual abilities, until she heard a doorbell, and she couldn’t figure out what it was. The quote from Bud Bundy was his explanation for what he thought was happening to Kelly’s brain.
There are times when I think aging has affected my memory. It very well could be that age has lessened my intellectual capacity, but I’m more inclined to think it has more to do with this bit of dialogue written for the Bud Bundy character. We’re so inundated with information in this information age, that we forget certain, core fundamentals. A friend of mine informed me that we only have room for three million memories in our brain, and when we start to attain more of them in the natural course of our lives, others start to fall out.
Winston Churchill: “Youth is wasted on the young.” I can’t tell you how much of my youth I wasted. I was naturally athletic, and I had an inquisitive mind. I don’t think I adequately pursued either. I thought I’d live forever, so I didn’t want to do anything today. I thought I would eventually figure something out when I became an adult. I preferred to play Nintendo and Sega. I don’t regret much of what I did, but I now wish I had that youthful enthusiasm and youthful energy back, so I could combine it with my current mind.
Marcel Proust: “We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” I think this follows the Churchill quote well, for it is only through the path we have taken in life that we can become wise, but we also lose our youth on these paths. That youthful enthusiasm and idealistic, fantastical mind is lost as we become wiser.
I’m all about teaching my nephews. I sit and daydream about scenarios that I can lay out for them. I tell them the things I did. My lessons are funny and sad depending on the situation. At the end of the day, I’m quite sure that all of my lessons will go in one ear and out the other in the manner all the lessons I was taught did. We cannot, as Proust says, prepare those setting out on their journey any more than those that preceded us could. We can try, and most of us will, if we don’t want our experiences to wither within, but they have to take this journey themselves if they are ever going to learn anything. Once that valuable lesson is learned independent of advice, they can combine it with the advice we’ve passed on, and actually learn something in life.
Norman Mailer: “Experience, when it cannot be communicated to another, must wither within and be worse than lost.” I have used this quote a lot. I have often replaced the word “experience” with stories. We all have stories to tell. If we allow these stories to die off they are worse than lost. My uncles proudly proclaimed that my grandpa wasn’t much of a talker. “He was a humble man who didn’t talk about himself much,” they would say with a wistful smile. This was seen as a valiant attribute of the WWII generation. There is an element of narcissism to talking about oneself of course, and we can all take a nugget about overdoing it, but there are also lessons a young person can learn from our stories. There is a level of familiarity a young one can attain from an elder who talks about their life. There is also that cliche about passing on a legacy that can be totally lost when we “don’t talk about ourselves much”.
I appreciated the idea that my grandpa wanted to allow me to carve my own path in life, and I don’t know if he actually said these words, or if I imagined it, but I seem to remember a “You don’t want to hear advice from an old man do you?” I probably didn’t, but the point is that you’re supposed to force me to listen to you. You’re supposed say, “You’re my grandson, and you’ll listen to this whether you like it or not. It’s for your own good.” In the aftermath of that, I will feel an unusual warmth that allows me to feel like your grandson and your legacy. So, go ahead and be the strong, silent type with your women and your friends, but when you’re standing beneath a basket sending balls back to a shooter that happens to be your kid, or your grand kid, open and tell them a few tales from your life. Even if they pretend they’re not listening, or they cut you off to talk about their kid stories, it might provide long-term benefits for the both of you. The alternative is a strong, silent, and relatively distant family thinking all the entertaining vignettes and life lessons you could’ve taught us while they lower you into the ground.
When John Madden decided that he would retire (the first time) he told a story about his boy asking if John would buy him a car. “That’s ridiculous,” Madden said to his wife. “Shouldn’t we at least wait until he’s sixteen before we even start in on this conversation?” His wife informed him that his son turned sixteen two years ago. John Madden subsequently retired from his duties as a football analyst.
That retirement lasted for about one year. A reporter asked Madden about ending his one-year retirement to ‘Spend time with the family’. “Anyone that tells you that they’re retiring to spend more time with the family is lying. No one wants to spend more time with their family, and your family doesn’t want to spend more time with you,” he said.
Friedrich Nietzsche: “It is not enough to prove something. One also has to seduce or elevate people to it. That is why a man of knowledge should learn how to speak his wisdoms and often in such a way that sounds like folly.” Does this not describe politics and the entire entertainment industry in a nutshell? Most civilized societies have deemed murder in the first degree the most awful crime a person can commit, and they impose penalties that attempt to define the crime and hopefully prevent people from being seduced by its power. It is tantalizing and tempting to violate taboos. With that in mind, how does a politician convince their voter base that they’re not responsible for a high murder rate in their locale. How does a movie producer convince a movie going public that their movie about murder is enjoyable? They develop a narrative, and a plot line that involve seemingly harmless actions, say a cartoon, and they drop in little lines here and there, over and over, until it becomes an accepted norm.
Bertrand Russell: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” Every person believes they are a member of “the wiser” faction, and that the other people are all fools and fanatics.
Abraham Lincoln: “Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to be.” Some of us are absolutely miserable in the present, and we can’t wait for something to happen, so that we can finally be happy. Some of us will kind of sort of somewhat admit that we are happy, but we know that the other shoe is sure to drop on our happiness and expose it as the myth it was. We know too much to be happy, we’ve lived too long to know that happiness just doesn’t happen to us, until that certain something happens somewhere and we wish we could go back to the time and place when we were happy.
Ernest Hemingway: “I like to sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I’m awake.” This might help explain all the alcohol, and the suicide.